Horse Shows 101Welcome to our version of 'Horse Shows 101,' where we'll get you quickly up to speed on all the lingo of a horse show like Horse Shows by the Bay.
Horse Shows by the Bay is a "AA" rated festival that features the top hunter, jumper, and dressage riders in the nation. Please read on to learn more about the sport and passion we love!
What is Show Jumping?
Described by most as a cross between Thoroughbred racing and downhill slalom skiing, the Olympic Sport of Grand Prix Show Jumping offers to the spectator the thrill of fast paced activity and excitement. Horse and rider are judged on how high and how fast they can jump a designated pattern of obstacles or jumps. The typical show jump course ranges in height from 3 feet to 5 feet or more, depending on the division or level in which they compete, and is designed using at least 10 total jumps in succession. The course calls for technical accuracy on the part of the rider and absolute obedience on the part of the horse. Show jumps are lavishly striped and decorated to suit themes of the surrounding environment. The fastest horse/rider combination knocking down the fewest jumps are heralded the winner.
What is Dressage?
French for “to train”, dressage (pronounced dress-AHGE) has a fundamental purpose to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse in disciplines from show jumping to western reining. At the peak of a dressage horse’s gymnastic development, it can smoothly respond to a skilled rider’s minimal aids by performing the requested movement while remaining relaxed and appearing effortless. Horse and rider combinations compete in a 20 x 60 meter arena, with 12 lettered markers placed at specific points along the rails. Today, Olympic Dressage is like the figure skating of the equestrian world, where grace, beauty and skill are judged.
What is a Show Hunter?
The term “hunter” is not a breed of horse but an occupation. The hunter must posses jumping ability, style, pace, quality and manners, but he may be of any breed—as long as he is a comfortable, safe ride in the hunt field. Today’s show hunter competes in an arena over simulated stonewalls, hedges, and coups that are similar to ones found out in the hunting field. These jumps are combined together to form a pattern or course. Riders wear traditional hunting garb dating back centuries in tradition; impeccable horses are turned out complete with neatly braided manes and tails resplendent of an era gone by. In the more modern arena, showing hunters usually prepares one interested in show jumping by teaching them the fundamentals of riding. Those that show year round compete for points to qualify them towards prestigious year-end finals and Horse of the Year titles.
What is Equitation?
Equitation events are classes in which the rider, not the horse, is judged. The rider must demonstrate good seat, hand and leg position and are asked to do so under strict demands and tests set forth by the judge and event specifications. Riders are being judged on how accurate and smooth they deliver their cues to the horse. Equitation riders are classified according to their age and previous winnings in equitation classes. Riders who possess good equitation usually excel in hunter and jumper events as well. It is the constant goal of every rider to achieve perfect form as it therefore usually relates to perfect function.
Amateur Owner: Divisions that are restricted to non-professional adult riders who ride horses owned by themselves or members of their immediate family.
Clean Round: When a horse completes the prescribed jumper course within the time allowed without incurring jumping faults. When more than one horse has a clean round, a jump-off is held to determine the winner.
Combination: Two or three jumps set up so they must be taken in quick succession, separated by only one or two strides. A combination is considered to be a single obstacle. If a horse stops or runs out at any element of the combination (elements are lettered A, B, C), the entire obstacle must be re-jumped.
Conformation: Judged on a horse’s bone structure and body proportions (physical build), based on quality, substance and soundness. Conformation faults include things such as high withers, a long neck or short legs. In the conformation hunter divisions, the over fences and under saddle classes are judged 60 percent on performance and 40 percent on their conformation.
Course: In each class, competitors must negotiate the jumps in a prescribed order. The grand prix is the highest level of show jumping competition, so the fences are larger and the course longer and more challenging. Accredited course designers plan grand prix courses. No two courses are ever the same. Spectators who hear a course described as a “perfect course” (or “PC”) have seen an event in which the number of riders who qualify for the jump-offs is the same as the number of ribbons offered in that class.
Disobedience/Refusal: When a horse refuses a jump. Two refusals result in elimination.
Fault: Penalty assessed in jumper classes for mistakes such as knockdowns, refusals and exceeding the time allowed.
Freestyle: Dressage musical freestyle is an artistic program created by the rider to present his/her horse to its best advantage in an artistic, musical context. It is judged according to technical execution and artistic impression (harmony, choreography, degree of difficulty and musicality).
Gaits: The different paces at which a horse travels are the walk, trot, canter, gallop and varying speeds of each.
Green: An inexperienced or young horse. A green hunter is in its first or second year of showing over obstacles of 3-feet-6 or higher.
Handy: A class in which hunters show their versatility over a more difficult course. The course can consist of a trot jump, hand-gallop jumps and options for sharper turns, as well as lines of jumps that are not a related distance.
The model is a hunter class during which the
horse is shown in hand and judged on conformation.
Jog: This is done at the end of each rated hunter class. Each horse must be shown in hand (with just a bridle and the rider on foot), enter the ring and trot to the judge to show the horse’s soundness and correctness in movement.
Junior: Means someone 18 or under is riding the horse. “Small junior hunters” means that a rider 18 or under is riding a horse under 16 hands (a hand is four inches). “Large junior hunters” is someone 18 or under riding a horse 16 hands and over.
Jump-Off: All horses with clean first rounds jump a shortened course against the clock to determine the winner.
Model: A hunter class during which the horse is shown in hand and judged on conformation.
Passage: The passage is a movement seen in upper-level dressage in which the horse performs a highly elevated and extremely powerful trot. The horse is very collected and moves with great impulsion. The passage differs from the working, medium, collected and extended trot in that the horse raises a diagonal pair high off the ground and suspends the leg for a longer period than seen in the other trot types. The hindquarters are very engaged, and the knees and hocks are flexed more than the other trot types. The horse appears to trot in slow motion, making it look as if it is dancing.
Piaffe: A dressage movement that requires the horse to trot in place. During the movement, the horse’s weight is mostly placed on its hindquarters to allow the front end to be light and flexible. The horse must keep a steady rhythm and there should be a moment of suspension between footfalls.
Rail: The wooden bar used on a jump.
Round or trip: Terms used to describe a rider’s turn in each class.
Spread Fence: When two vertical fences are combined together creating a wider than normal obstacle for the horse to jump; forces the horse to exert a greater effort.
Standards: The various types of supports that hold up the rails of a jump.
The average stride of a horse is 12 feet. Course designers
use this distance as a gauge when setting courses.
Stride: The amount of ground covered by a horse in one step at a canter. The average horse’s stride is 12 feet. Distances between fences are set accordingly by the course designer.
Tack: The equipment worn by the horse depends on the needs of the animal. The saddle and bridle are the staples. Other equipment may be added, such as a martingale, which attaches to the saddle and bridle to keep the horse’s head from rising too high. Horses may also wear boots or bandages on their legs for support or protection.
The equipment worn by the horse is called tack.
The saddle and bridle are the staples.
Vertical: A fence with no spread to it, which forces a horse to make a steep arc in his effort to jump.
Voluntary Withdrawal: A rider makes the decision not to continue on the course and to leave the ring, usually with a nod of the head or tip of the hat to the judge.